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1961 Mickey Mantle Signed 44th Home-Run Ball - With Specific Home-Run Notation by Mantle!
Starting Bid - $5,000, Sold For - $9,000
Presented here is one of the finest Mickey Mantle home-run balls we have ever encountered: Mantle's 44th home run ball dating from the historic 1961 season! What makes this ball so special is that in addition to being accompanied by a one-page notarized letter from our consignor detailing its history, it has been authenticated by Mantle himself in the form of a personalized handwritten notation directly on the ball. Mantle's blue-ink inscription on the side panel of this official American League (Cronin) ball reads "To Garland/My Best Wishes/Mickey Mantle/No. 44/1961." Both the signature and inscription grade "6" overall and remain perfectly legible. The "Garland" to whom this ball is addressed is the husband of our consignor, who, in her accompanying signed one-page notarized letter, provides its complete provenance:
I. . . . am the owner of a baseball that was very special to my late husband, Garland Rigdon. His favorite team was the New York Yankees and his favorite players were Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. During the 1961 season, Garland had the opportunity to visit Griffith Stadium in Washington DC to see his team play the Washington Senators. On August 11, 1961 Garland attended the game and had the good fortune of catching Mickey Mantle's 44th home run of that season. After the game, Garland waited for Mickey Mantle to leave the clubhouse, with the hopes to have him autograph the home run baseball. Mickey came out, Garland approached him and told Mickey about the ball. Mickey signed the ball with the following inscription "To Garland, My Best Wishes. Mickey Mantle No. 44. 1961." Garland kept the baseball at the residence until his death in 1990. Since his death, I have kept the baseball in my hope chest. At this time, I am ready to share this baseball and the history behind it.
As the letter states, Mantle did indeed hit his 44th home run of the 1961 season at Griffith Stadium on August 11th. The blow, a two-run home run in the seventh inning, with pitcher Pete Burnside the victim, helped pad the Yankees' 9-3 lead (the Yankees won the game 12-5). Mantle, of course, was waging an epic home-run duel with teammate Roger Maris at the time. Both Mantle and Maris, who also hit a home run against the Senators on August 11th, were well on pace to break Babe Ruth's long-standing single-season home-run record of 60, set in 1927. Mantle's 44th home run, which was already the second-highest total of his career (eclipsed only by his 52 home runs hit in 1956), put him two ahead of Maris at the close of the day. At this point the baseball world was at a fever pitch as it watched the home-run race sprint towards the finish line. As noted daily by all of the papers at the time, the August 11th game was the Yankees' 114th game of the season. By comparison, Ruth didn't hit his 44th home run until the club's 128th game (on September 2nd) in 1927, which put both Mantle and Maris almost two weeks ahead of Ruth's record pace. Unfortunately for Mantle, a late season injury ended his pursuit of the record, and he finished the year with a career-high 54 home runs. Maris eventually broke Ruth's record on the final day of the season.
Any souvenir relating to the M&M Boys' fabled home-run duel is highly prized by collectors today, let alone a Mantle home-run ball. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first and only Mantle home-run ball dating from the 1961 season to appear at auction. While all home-run balls require a certain leap of faith, the fact that Mantle has personally noted by hand that this is his 44th home-run ball from 1961, and that it comes with a detailed letter of provenance from the consignor, makes it, in our eyes, one of the most well-documented Mantle home-run balls ever to come to market (outside of the few that originate directly from the Mantle family). It should be further noted that the official American League ball conforms perfectly to those in use during the 1961 season (its stampings date it to the 1960 to 1969 manufacturing period) and displays wear consistent with game use, including soiling and a number of minor abrasions. In Very Good condition overall. Full LOA from James Spence/JSA (JSA specifically states in its letter that both the signature and inscription on the ball are in the hand of Mickey Mantle). Reserve $5,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $9,000
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